Every 28 hours a black person is killed by police. Video has surfaced of the shooting of Kajaime Powell of St Louis, who on Tuesday was killed by St Louis police officers following an incident in which Powell, 25, robbed a convenience store of two Red Bull sodas and a Honeybun and the video seems to refute the police department's earlier statement about the shooting.
Police initially responded that officers responded to a call about a robbery to find Powell armed with a knife. After confronting him, Powell allegedly (according to the police) brought his knife up in an overhand grip and told officers to shoot him and as he was three feet from the police, the officers fired on him, fearing for their safety.
Of course, you could argue - and many already were - that a person with a knife could likely be brought to arrest safely by the officers. Many wondered if this was another Michael Brown incident, in which someone who didn't appear to be a threat was perceived to be one by police, simply because of his blackness. Others argued that the man had a knife and charged at the cops, clearly intending to commit suicide by police.
Then the video surfaced. I'm going to link it here but please, BE FOREWARNED - this is a video in which you see a man die. He is shot and he is killed and it is incredibly graphic and violent. Please think of your own mental health and well being before deciding whether to watch this video. I think it's important to watch this - it's important to stand witness for Kajieme Powell - but do not do so at the risk of your own health.
This is what the video shows:
1) Powell was pretty clearly acting erratically and was not displaying neurotypical behavior. Police had been notified by the store personnel who called in the robbery that the suspect seemed to be mentally unbalanced.
2) Powell was not acting in a threatening manner. He had placed the sodas on the ground. Other residents of the area were amused by his behavior, but clearly not threatened by it, as you see several people walking right by him and filming him.
3) The police arrive and exit their vehicles with their guns drawn before even speaking to Powell.
4) Powell is not 3-4 feet away from the officers at any time. More like 8 feet, give or take a foot. He is, however, standing on a raised lawn so, to give the officers some credit, it's possible that their view of him was a bit distorted by the difference in height.
5) The officers tell Powell to drop his weapon (you can't see a knife in the video, but I'm willing to stipulate there might have been one). His arms remain at his side at all times.
6) The officers open fire on Powell about twenty seconds after they exit their vehicle. Twenty seconds until deadly force is used.
7) After shooting him repeatedly - even after he was on the ground - they flip his dead body over and handcuff him, which muddies forensics. You know, in case his corpse is a threat.
I don't even know what to say at this point. Even if this isn't race-related, even if this is JUST a case of how the mentally ill are treated in society, this is unfathomable to me. I have family and friends who have various mental health problems. This could have been my aunt during a manic episode. This could have been my friend when her anxiety takes over and she can't communicate. This could have been me when I was pregnant with my child. Why do we allow police out on the streets if they don't know how to work with citizens who are ill?
What's true is this: Kajieme Powell was killed by the police. He wasn't reasoned with, or assisted, or even tased or beaten into compliance. He was just shot, and now he's dead. Maybe because he was sick. Maybe because he was black. Maybe because he didn't say "yessuh" fast enough.